North America just ran out of IPv4 addresses as IoT future beckons

25 Sep 2015

After issuing a series of warnings, the American Registry for Internet Numbers (ARIN) has confirmed that it has issued its last IPv4 address asking questions of the world’s IPv6 development.

It has been the foundation for IP addresses since the internet’s earliest days but, in North America at least, IPv4’s time as North America’s IP address designation has ground to a halt.

Only capable of handling 4,294,967,296 individual addresses, ARIN said that it has now issued its last IPv4 address in its remaining free pool with the future now squarely focused on the rolling out of IPv6 addresses.

With nearly 25bn devices expected to be connected online by 2020 as part of the ever-growing reality of the internet of things (IoT), the IPv6, which uses a 128-bit address compared with IPv4’s much more limited 32-bit address, is the future.

According to ARIN, for organisations involved in web commerce, IPv6 will ensure global visibility across the whole Internet at reduced latency and provide accurate geolocation and customer analytics without the need to account for gateway masking that can skew critical data.

‘Internet is no longer an experiment’

One of those who has been calling for the rapid implementation of IPv6 has been one of the internet’s pioneers, Vint Cerf, who called for IPv6 rollout to facilitate the growth of IoT back in May.

And yet, despite being around since 1999, IPv6 rollout has been slow because companies are slow in adapting to change as many organisations see it as a complicated and costly process they’d rather do without.

“When we designed the internet 40 years ago, we did some calculations and estimated that 4.3 billion terminations ought to be enough for an experiment. Well, the experiment escaped the lab,” Cerf said on this recent news. “The internet is no longer an experiment; it is the lifeblood of commerce, communication and innovation. It needs room to grow and that can only be achieved through the deployment of IPv6 address space.”

This doesn’t mean the end of IPv4 entirely however, as ARIN said that people can request them, but will be placed on a waiting list for recycled old IP addresses, or they could trade one if they were particularly keen on a certain IP address.

IPv6 drawing image via Thierry Ehrmann/Flickr

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic